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Monday, December 04, 2006

Thrown For A Loss

I should probably have a lot to say about Saturday night’s game, but I just don’t. The score and general feel of the contest were about what I expected. There were a few things, however, that caught me off guard. First, had you told me that we would double up OU in rushing yards AND throw for more as well; I would have felt pretty confident in our chances. I also didn’t expect Paul Thompson to play as well as he did. He looked very Elway-esque completing passes while rolling out of the pocket. That worked to neutralize our pass rush and kept our linebackers scrambling all over the field. Offensively, we never got rolling. I kept waiting for us to find some sort of rhythm, but we just couldn’t manufacture a drive. Zac Taylor picked a bad time for his poorest performance of the year, but the likelihood of mistakes grows when you are putting it up 50 times in a game.

Nebraska fans are now once again debating the talent, execution or coaching scapegoats. I’ll stick with execution for the time being, but unlike Husker Mike, I don’t think you can disentangle execution from talent. Generally, don’t more talented players better execute on gamedays? Oklahoma made plays and we didn’t. Period.

To win the game I thought we needed points off of big plays, and instead, we gave up far more than we produced. I also thought we had to be really successful on first down. Unfortunately our first down efficiency (percentage of 1st down plays of 4 or more yards) was a very average 45%. In the first quarter 4/6 first down plays went for 4+ yards, but after that quick start, we produced 4 or more yards on just 10 of the next 25 first downs. When you aren’t moving the ball on first down, you quickly fall behind on down and distance. It should come as no surprise then, that we were a paltry 3/15 on third down conversions for the game. When you add in a –4 turnover margin, you have a recipe for disaster.

Last year we really benefited from our bowl preparations and beat a very talented Michigan team. I hope we can do the same this year against Auburn. 10-4 seems like a huge step up from 9-5. Let’s finish strong.